Best known for her Fragment series of small fabric collages, Lesley is also a nationally known quilter and mixed-media artist with a passion for color and the written word. Her work takes the form of art quilts, fabric books, dolls and more. Her art and writing focus on her passion–the inspiration and creativity of women. Her first book, Quilted Memories (Sterling/Chappelle), brings new ideas and techniques to quilting and preserving memories. With her art and her website, LaLasLand.com, Lesley aspires to inspire others to find their own voice and create their art.
How did you decide to make working with quilts a career? What led you in that direction?
I made my first quilt in 1971 for my first child. As my family grew (I have six children), time became scarce and I stopped quilting. When I hit my 40's I realized there was an absence in my life. I missed creating and I missed fabric. I started to make small fabric collages with photos and my favorite quotes. Over time, these "Fragments" (as I called them) led me back to quilting in the form of journal quilts and memory quilts. I began teaching because it was important to me to share the joy I found in creating. Teaching led to writing Quilted Memories. I have just finished my second book, Fabric Memory Books, which will be available late in 2006. I didn't plan a career in quilting. My love for quilting led me to it.
What inspires your work? How do new ideas come to you in quiltmaking?
Fabric and photos inspire me. Sometimes I'll stumble across a photo that begs to become a quilted memory. Or I'll come across 3 or 4 fabrics while sifting through my stash, and the beauty of their combination will impress me. This inspires me to create a quilt.
New ideas come to me from all directions: the colors of a sunset, the beauty in an accidental still life, or a sentence in a book. Working small allows me to create quilted memories of my day-to-day life. I work in a collage style. Collage is about piecing things together. So is quilting.
We were only able to tease our readers with some of the information available in your new book Quilted Memories. What else will they learn from it?
Quilted Memories is really two books in one. The first half of the book provides both the new and the experienced quilter with easy-to-understand design basics as well as tips on finding time to quilt, easy finishing techniques and storytelling with photos and fabric. The second half of the book has instructions and ideas for 24 projects–12 from me, and 12 from contributing artists.
If you could offer one piece of advice for quiltmakers, what would it be?
Make quilts for the joy of making. It's more important to enjoy the process than to stress out over trying to be perfect. A quilt made with love has a positive energy stitched into it, which will transcend any imperfections.
Lesley Riley's Quilted Memories quilt appears in the March/April 2006 issue of Quiltmaker magazine.